I remember reading this short story in middle school (2009-2011). I think it was set in an abandoned underground subway in NYC, but we don't find that out at all. The way everything is described makes the place sound like a really creepy undiscovered new world, almost futuristic. You have to use your own reason and logic to piece together that the descriptions are of escalators and other machines no longer in service.

It was also a very vague story. They didn't delve much into the characters if I remember right. It was focused more on the details of the scenery and what or "who" could have possibly created it and what it was used for.

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    Were there drink dispensers that had green algae-thick water that the denizens had to catch in their hands, and a machine that used induction to stimulate the pleasure centers -- both paid in tokens that the denizens would scrabble for like pigeons for a piece of popcorn?
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Apr 24, 2020 at 11:24

2 Answers 2


Reminds me of the scene from John Christopher’s White Mountains, first book of the Tripod trilogy, when they wander into the ruins of the Metro in Paris. It was all written in such a way that you had infer the details of the technology.

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    Thank you! This is the closest I've ever heard to what I'm thinking! I'll see if it's it!
    – Lysa
    Apr 24, 2020 at 9:29

Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay might be a possibility.

It is the year 4022; all of the ancient country of Usa has been buried under many feet of detritus from a catastrophe that occurred back in 1985. Imagine, then, the excitement that Howard Carson, an amateur archeologist at best, experienced when in crossing the perimeter of an abandoned excavation site he felt the ground give way beneath him and found himself at the bottom of a shaft, which, judging from the DO NOT DISTURB sign hanging from an archaic doorknob, was clearly the entrance to a still-sealed burial chamber. Carson's incredible discoveries, including the remains of two bodies, one of then on a ceremonial bed facing an altar that appeared to be a means of communicating with the Gods and the other lying in a porcelain sarcophagus in the Inner Chamber, permitted him to piece together the whole fabric of that extraordinary civilization.

  • Unfortunately that's not it. The story does not tell you the place you're in. You just have to use the clues they give you to piece together where the setting is [the moving stairs that crumbled long ago are escalators].
    – Lysa
    Apr 24, 2020 at 16:12

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